Just when you thought you were done with all the 20th anniversary stories about the home ballpark of your Toronto Blue Jays!
I attended Sunday's game against the Royals and got to witness the awesomeness of Doc Halladay as he won his 10th game of 2009 with a complete game shutout. It occurred to me before yesterday's game that the very first two games I went to at the SkyDome were back to back games against Kansas City. The first game was on August 1, 1989. That contest marked the debut of one of the most popular players in franchise history - none other than MOOOOOOOOOOOK - Mookie Wilson! He was acquired the day before from the New York Mets for pitcher Jeff Musselman and Mike Brady (not the one from the Brady Bunch, presumably!). Mazzilli was plucked off of waivers from the Mets on the same day.
My recollections of the game were Mookie getting hosed out of his first base hit as he beat out an infield grounder but the first base ump disagreed, much to the chagrin of the 48,000-plus at the game. From minute one, he was an instant fan favourite as the fans chanted MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOK every time up. It was a tight pitching duel between Todd Stottlemyre and Bret Saberhagen and the Jays trailed 1-0 until my friend Gord correctly predicted that Ernie Whitt was going to hit one out on the next pitch. Sure enough, that's exactly what happened and the game was tied at 1-1 after seven.
The lead was short-lived when the Royals got two singles to put runners on the corners with nobody out. It should've been first and second but "The Shaker" Lloyd Moseby had a problem with the ball taking a huge hop off the astroturf, allowing the runner to get to third. Duane Ward came in to try to hold the runners but a ground ball double play off the bat of the immortal Matt Winters plated the winning run in a 2-1 Royals win. I remembered being upset with Moseby because he was picked off at first base earlier in the game so it wasn't a banner night for him.
Still, I was very impressed with the SkyDome itself and really enjoyed our seats just off home plate on the first base side in the 100 level. I think I said "Holy shoot!" (or some facsimile thereof!) about 100 times before the game. I was even more impressed with John Cerutti as he enjoyed his best-ever start in the bigs August 2, 1989 as the Jays crushed the Royals 8-0. Cerutti had a no-hitter going for 5 1/3 innings before George Brett hit a ground-rule double. Not a bad guy to lose a no-hit bid to, I suppose. Fred McGriff was the first Jay I saw take one deep followed by Mazzilli, of all people. He was 3-for-3 with two walks in his Blue Jay debut. Not too shabby! My other highlight from that game was seeing the roof close for the first time. It was open until late in the game and it was closed shut just about the same time as Brett lined out to Manny Lee at second to end the game.
Almost 20 years later, I still love going to this park. Is it the best park in the majors? No, it isn't (PNC Park in Pittsburgh is!) but I love it just the same. I like the changes that have been made to the Dome in recent years - including the new turf, the radar gun scoreboard, the ribbon scoreboards and the out-of-town scoreboards on the outfield wall.
Changes I would like the see would be more radar gun scoreboards, the extension of the ribbon scoreboards all the way around the stadium, and installing glass somewhere along the stadium's roof to give the place more out of an outdoor feel when the roof is closed. Something similar to Ford Field, home of my Detroit Lions.
As far as I'm concerned, the upper deck seats are pretty good (especially if you have a Season Pass!) and the retractable roof is still awesome. Really, there's no other place I'd rather spend my spring and summer days and nights than the ol' Concrete Convertible watching my beloved Jays. It's where I took my future missus on our first date, a thriller against the Orioles on August 4th, 2002 where she got to see the roof close for the first time during a game. I prefer outdoor games and I would like to see the roof open but I sure appreciate the roof being closed when the weather sucks in April. I feel sorry for Twins fans who'll have no retractable roof at Target Field next season.
When I look back at all the games I've been to, there's been more good times than bad and I sure hope to spend another 20 years and hopefully another 20 years and another 20 after that going to the Rogers Centre where I'll hopefully see more World Series pennants hanging up in the rafters!